TSN continues to wheel and deal, adding UEFA Champions League and possibly UFC

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I continue to find the business of sports TV to be fascinating in Canada in the wake of the big Rogers NHL deal that kicked in this fall.

Seeing how TSN has responded to this has been fascinating. A lot of commentators had claimed TSN would be decimated. And in the short term it seemed that way, given that the two top sports properties in Canada — the NHL and the Blue Jays — were locked up by Rogers.

The reality, however, is that there were a lot of other sports rights out there that Rogers was going to have to pass on, given that they broke the bank for the NHL to the tune of upwards of $5.2 billion dollars. On top of that, TSN had a lot of money available to spend and programming holes to fill.

So they locked up the CFL long-term, locked up the NFL on Sundays, locked up a ton of ESPN programming including more baseball, and they continue to have a ton of NBA basketball and international hockey including the World Juniors. So they are not in bad shape at all, now, in my opinion. And now comes word that TSN has locked up some more rights to some important sports.

Starting next season, TSN will be home of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. This is big news, it adds a ton of high-level midweek soccer to the TSN lineup. I suppose we ought not be surprised that this is leaving Sportsnet, because Sportsnet’s main midweek programming is the Wednesday night NHL package, and it’s pretty difficult to re-air any of the afternoon Champions League games in prime time when you’re showing hockey.

In any event, this adds to TSN’s soccer commitment, which already includes half the Premier League and most of MLS, and reduces the Rogers commitment significantly.

We are also waiting for word about Canadian rights to the UFC package and I point you to this story that suggests TSN is about to acquire the rights to the UFC, though no official announcement has been made.

If this is indeed happening I consider it great news, because for the last while Rogers has been consigning its UFC programming to Sportsnet360, a channel I don’t have in my cable package. So I haven’t been happy for that reason, but Dana White and crew cannot be happy with Rogers turning Saturdays into their big NHL night, either. This basically reduces UFC to total second-class citizenship by Sportsnet on that night. So it would not surprise me at all if they walk over to TSN, simply for that reason.

I think TSN may emerge as a long-term winner with these rights acquisitions. Slowly but surely, they are locking up the rights to the sports that matter to younger sports fans in Canada — and those are soccer, the NBA and the UFC. Those sports have a lot of growth potential in this country, in my view. And speaking of the NBA — folks at TSN must feel they have really lucked out due to the impressive performance so far of the Toronto Raptors.

UPDATE: Done deal!! Here is TSN’s announcement about the UFC.

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